There are a number of things you can learn by observing people, especially when it is your job to catch thieves in a retail setting. One thing that a little bit of training has taught me, and that years of experience have proven is that you can never judge a person’s intentions merely by their appearances. Observing peoples’ behaviors is the best-proven way to identify shoplifters and to prevent shoplifting. But for a moment, let’s explore some of the common misconceptions about who does and who does not shoplift.
When you hear the word “criminal”, it usually invokes a particular mental image. For many people, it is the image of a suspicious man, maybe wearing a ski mask. Or maybe it is a man with black cloth around his face with holes cut out for eyes, and a black and white, horizontally-striped shirt. Whatever the case may be, that image in your mind is not the only profile of a shoplifter. Shoplifters are men, women, and even children, both young and elderly, and of all shapes and colors. The youngest shoplifter I have personally caught was six; he and his eleven-year-old sister stole hundreds of dollars of jewelry. The oldest one was 76; she stole several high-dollar perfumes.
Another misconception you should erase from your mind is capabilities, both physical and mental. Shoplifters are not only limited to those without any disabilities. One of the many felony shopliftings I have prevented involved a 14-year-old boy, paralyzed in a wheel chair. He concealed several hundred dollars-worth of men’s colognes and concealed them into a bag which he sat upon. Likewise, just because someone appears to be “above” shoplifting, they may not be. Young, attractive men and women in suits and fancy dresses commit thefts. Aspiring college athletes commit thefts. However capable of committing theft someone appears to be will surely mislead you.
A few weeks ago a pregnant woman entered the department store where I work as a loss prevention detective. She went to the shoe department, quickly selected a pair of shoes, and went immediately into a dark corner. She slipped the shoes into her purse, and then walked around carrying the empty box. She approached an employee and asked, “Where is the register closest to an exit? Don’t worry, I’m pregnant. It’s not like I would steal or anything…” After standing in line at the register for a brief moment, she placed the empty box down, and ran out of the store with the stolen shoes.
So if you were to be asked what a shoplifter looks like, I hope that you would not be so easily fooled to give a quick response. Do they have tattoos? Do they wear old or raggedy clothes? Are they male? Are they a minority group? The answer is “yes” for the same reasons that the answer is “yes” for those without tattoos, with new, bright clothing, for females and members of a majority group; people of all appearances can shoplift. So then how do asset protection and loss prevention professionals prevent shoplifting? How can they target those individuals before it is too late? The answer is the one thing shoplifters tend to have in common; suspicious behaviors. Many of these behaviors were exhibited by the pregnant woman who stole shoes. Read part 2 of this blog series to find out how to spot those telling behaviors.
For more information contact us: Prevent shoplifting or call 1.770.426.0547